THE END OF AN ERA
I really knew nothing about computers when I took over Spectrum Software Hire about 7 years ago. I thought they still lived in a large room with giant reels of tape, so the size of the Speccy was a great surprise to me.
Why did I launch myself into the unknown? Well I had a lock-up shop at the entrance to the local market, open three days a week and doing nicely. Then then whole three storey building and attached multi-storey car park was bought by a property developer with development ideas which did not include reasonable rents. So I looked around for work I could do at home where it was rent free and unlikely to be taken over by anyone without my permission.
It is difficult to find out exactly when and where SSH originated and the records I inherited only go back as far as 1988, although I was told it began in someone's house as a "borrowing in person" service without any mail order.
I took over in 1991 from Margaret Hill who lives in Nottingham and who had run things for three years. Moving 2,000 games and shelves and getting them back into order was an extremely difficult time and it was a relief to stop running up and down the stairs looking for a missing title!
Necessity meant that I learnt very quickly how to use a Speccy and, of course, became expert at loading all those tapes which were returned with a little message saying they wouldn't load. There are very, very few tapes which won't load if the tape head in the recorder is properly adjusted. If you have several tape recorders, as I eventually did, then changing to a different one is easier than adjusting the tape head.
It's surprising how many people don't read the instructions too. It isn't always LOAD"". It isn't all tape either and I soon introduced +3 disks into the catalogue. I also improved (I hope) the monthly newsletters, introduced cartoon graphics into the text, and then after much hassle, colour graphics (the 'stripey' effect became an institution - Ed).
As SSH was now running fairly smoothly it seemed a good idea to add Amiga games to the hire service. This led to a space problem in a small house so we rented a small shop in a local shopping mall, mainly for storage but opened it for a short time each afternoon. (The service was also re-named Softsell - Ed).
The customers soon organised us into running an exchange service, particularly for the cartridge games and second hand hardware. It quickly became necessary to have more space and we expanded into the much larger shop next door as well. We eventually finished up covering all formats including Atari and PC but the only 8-bit items we stocked were for the Spectrum.
You can probably guess what happened next. The owners of the shopping mall decided to turn the building into flats and sell it off. By this time (June 1997), I felt the need for SSH had really come to an end. There were no new commercial games for members to try before they bought and most Speccy enthusiasts now had a good range of titles of their own bought from boot sales etc.....
I have donated the complete catalogue of Spectrum games plus all my hardware, magazines, books etc. to The British Film Institute. This is a registered charity set up to promote enjoyment and development of the moving image. One of its current projects is to create a national representative collection of video games and to provide for educational and exhibition purposes.
So what am I doing now? Well, I have been studying music theory and composition for some time. I work part time for a charity shop in Trowbridge and we also have plans for a new business on the Internet, although not computer related this time.
So I suppose in the not too distant future
the Internet is either going to be taken over by a property developer, turned
into a block of flats or most likely of all, invaded by the Klingons.